Room to Read helps children abroad gain literacy skills |

Room to Read helps children abroad gain literacy skills

Carolyn Pope
Carolyn PopeDiana Matthias and Stephen Porter display artwork from children in Vietnam.

World change begins with educated children. Thats the purpose behind Room to Read, the organization created in 1988 by Microsoft founder and CEO John Wood. When Wood visited Vail to speak at a Vail Symposium event, many locals were inspired by his dedication and vision.

Last week, three locals held a fundraiser for Room to Read at the Gourmet Cowboy in Minturn. Diana Matthias, a realtor at Slifer, Smith & Frampton, recently returned from a visit to Vietnam, where she saw the programs in action. Robert Atkins, owner of Verbatim Bookstore in Vail, and Stephen Porter, operations manager at the Inn & Suites at Riverwalk, are the two other individuals who share the work in the Vail Chapter. For Wood, his journey to educate children in poor, remote countries began on a trek in the Himalayas, where he encountered a Nepalese man with a mission to help children learn to read.

He left Microsoft, wrote Leaving Microsoft to Change the World and started Room to Read. Through the opportunities that only an education can provide, the non-profit strives to break the cycle of poverty, one child at a time. Since 2000, the program has touched more than 1.3 million childrens lives.The organization helps educate children by partnering with communities to build schools, establishing bilingual libraries, publishing local language childrens books, establishing computer and language labs and providing long-term scholarships to girls.I told a friend about Room to Read and we had a get together for thirty people, said Matthias. I e-mailed John Wood about the event and he showed up.

The initial event raised $18,000. In the past year, more than $300,000 has been raised to help children learn to read. Matthias also shared that one local made a donation to build a library in honor of her grandmother. Matthias came back inspired from Vietnam to do more. In one family I met, the child walks one hour to get to school. Their annual income is $250 for a family of four. I have never seen a family this poor.She was impressed with Woods organization because of the tangible, sustainable business model.

You can see where the money is going, she said.Stephen Porter heard about Room to Read by accident. He attended the event thinking that he would be talking about Microsoft, but then walked away with a new mission. The world is a small place, he said. We can do things here locally and also abroad. The dollar also buys so much more there. Were changing generations.For information on giving and volunteer opportunities, visit the website at, or call Diana Matthias at (970) 471-6000.

> To help us publicize your event, e-mail or call (970) 748-2989.Click on photo galleries at to see photos from this event.

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